Bellaria means ‘sweets, dainties’, and in these hard times Classics for All will try to lighten the mood and put a spring in the step by posting delicious extracts from ancient literature, the original text followed by a translation or translations, and very occasionally with explanatory notes.

DISCLAIMER: the views expressed in these articles are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Classics for All.

Bellaria Index


2 April - Bellaria I, Good Sex Award I

9 April - Bellaria II, Good Sex Award II

16 April – Bellaria III, Good Sex Award III

23 April -  Bellaria IV, Good Sex Award IV

30 April – Bellaria V, Good Sex Award V

7 May – Bellaria VI, Scenes From Suetonius I

14 May – Bellaria VII, Scenes From Suetonius II

21 May – Bellaria VIII, Scenes From Suetonius III

28 May – Bellaria IX, Scenes From Suetonius IV

4 June – Bellaria X, Scenes From Suetonius V

11 June – Bellaria XI, Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams I

18 June – Bellaria XII, Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams II

25 June – Bellaria XIII, Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams III

2 July - Bellaria XIV, Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams IV

9 July – Bellaria XV, Artemidorus: The Interpretation of Dreams V

16 July – Bellaria XVI, Martial I

23 July – Bellaria XVII, Martial II

30 July – Bellaria XVIII, Martial III

6 August - Bellaria XIX, Martial IV

13 August - Bellaria XX, Martial V

20 August - Bellaria XXI, Martial VI

27 August - Bellaria XXII, Colloquia I

3 September - Bellaria XXIII, Colloquia II

10 September - Bellaria XXIV, Colloquia III

17 September - Bellaria XXV, Colloquia IV

24 September - Bellaria XXVI, Colloquia V

1 October - Bellaria XXVII, Verse Composition

8 October - Bellaria XXVIII, Derivations I

15 October - Bellaria XXIX, Derivations II

22 October - Bellaria XXX, Derivations III

29 October - Bellaria XXXI, Derivations IV

5 November - Bellaria XXXII, Derivations V

12 November - Bellaria XXXIII, Medieval Latin I

19 November - Bellaria XXXIV, Medieval Latin II

26 November - Bellaria XXXV, Medieval Latin III

3 December - Bellaria XXXVI, Medieval Latin IV

10 December - Bellaria XXXVII, Medieval Latin V

17 December - Bellaria XXXVIII, Christmas Special 2020


14 January - Bellaria XXXIX, The Sydenham Latin Verse Challenge

21 January - Bellaria XL, Pliny the Elder I

28 January - Bellaria XLI, Pliny the Elder II

4 February - Bellaria XLII, Pliny the Elder III

11 February - Bellaria XLIII, Pliny the Elder IV

18 February - Bellaria XLIV, Pliny the Elder V

25 February - Bellaria XLV, Lucian I

4 March - Bellaria XLVI, Lucian II

11 March - Bellaria XLVII, Lucian III

18 March - Bellaria XLVIII, Lucian IV

25 March - Bellaria XLIX, Lucian V

1 April - Bellaria L, Lucian VI

20 May - Bellaria LI, Valerius Maximus I

27 May - Bellaria LII, Valerius Maximus II

3 June - Bellaria LIII, Valerius Maximus III

10 June - Bellaria LIV, Valerius Maximus IV

17 June - Bellaria LV, Valerius Maximus V

24 June - Bellaria LVI, Plutarch I

1 July - Bellaria LVII, Plutarch II

8 July - Bellaria LVIII, Plutarch III

15 July - Bellaria LIX, Plutarch IV

22 July - Bellaria LX, Plutarch V

5 August - Bellaria LXI, Olympic Interlude I

12 August - Bellaria LXII, Olympic Interlude II

19 August - Bellaria LXIII, Unfamiliar Latin Poets I

26 August - Bellaria LXIV, Unfamiliar Latin Poets II

2 September, Bellaria LXV, Unfamiliar Latin Poets III

9 September, Bellaria LXVI, Unfamiliar Poets IV

16 September, Bellaria LXVII, Unfamiliar Poets V

23 September, Bellaria LXVIII, The Greek Anthology I

30 September, Bellaria LXIX, The Greek Anthology II

7 October, Bellaria LXX, The Greek Anthology III

14 October, Bellaria LXXI, The Greek Anthology IV

21 October, Bellaria LXXII, The Greek Anthology V

28 October, Bellaria LXXIII, Cicero Epistulae I

4 November, Bellaria LXXVI, Cicero Epistulae II

11 November, Bellaria LXXV, Cicero Epistulae III

18 November, Bellaria LXXVI, The Ides of March to the Death of Cicero 44-43 BC

25 November, Bellaria LXXVII, Cicero's Philosophy

9 December, Bellaria LXXVIII, St Matthew 2.1-23: the birth of Jesus


13 January, Bellaria LXXIX, Women's Lives from Roman Inscriptions


Bellaria CVI

28 July

Our final episode on Vegetius covers Book III, which ends with a summary of the most important ‘general rules’ for warfare derived from Vegetius’ work. These were extremely popular in the Middle Ages.

Bellaria will take a short break and return in September.

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Please note: 106 section 26 - Illustration by Peter Connolly

Bellaria CV

21 July

This week's episode on Vegetius covers protecting supplies, the dangers facing an army on the march, and judging when to fight.

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Bellaria CIV

14 July

In our second look at Vegetius, we explore his thoughts on training recruits.

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Please note: 104 section 9 - Illustration by Peter Connolly 

Bellaria CIII

7 July

Vegetius composed two works: the Epitome of Military Science and a work on equine and bovine ailments. All that we know about him derives from these two works. This week we look at his Epitome, which he composed off his own bat for the emperor, and was wildly popular in the early Middle Ages.

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Bellaria CII

30 June

This week we return to Tacitus' Histories. Reflecting on man's desire for power, Tacitus describes the triumph and fall of Vitellius.

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Nero and Aggripina on a coin face

Bellaria CI

23 June

Tacitus' Histories, probably in 12 books, began with the post-Neronian ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ (AD 69) and ended with Domitian, but only books 1 to 5 survive, covering that famous year. It is this period, when Tacitus was about 14 years old, from which this week's extracts derive.

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Bellaria C

16 June

Since about eighty percent of Romans survived by cultivating their small patch of land, hoping to make a surplus to buy what they could not grow, education was of interest only to people of leisure with time on their hands, i.e. the wealthy.

Learn about the art of rhetoric in this week's episode, which covers Tacitus' Dialogus de oratoribus.

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Bellaria XCIX

9 June

This week covers Tacitus' Germania. The Romans found it difficult to make up their minds about what to do with the Germans. Should they try to pacify them completely, as Domitian claimed to have done? (Tacitus may well written Germania partly to prove the hated emperor wrong!). Little is heard of Tacitus after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West until the 9th century AD, but even then his Germania received little notice.

This all changed in the 15th C when Germany humanists used Tacitus’ Germania to assert that Germany had its own distinct identity as a nation far earlier, back in Roman times. Since then the use and abuse of the Germania has played a significant part in German politics and cultural and social history.

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Bellaria XCVIII

26 May

In this episode, find out about the final battle in AD 83: Agricola vs Calgacus at Mons Graupius. 

‘Mons Graupius is one of the most famous battles of antiquity, yet we have a little idea where it took place [N.W. Scotland?], and its fame rests largely on a speech which was never delivered by a leader [Calgacus] of whom we know nothing’ (Woodman).

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Bellaria XCVII

19 May

From 75 AD Tacitus made his career in Rome, and in 76 AD he married the daughter of the famous general Gnaeus Julius Agricola. Tacitus himself may well have served as a military tribune in Agricola’s army in Britain for a few years. He published his life of Agricola in 98 AD, a panegyric concentrating on Agricola’s governorship of Britain which fiercely criticised the emperor Domitian for his repression of freedom and treatment of his father-in-law.

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Bellaria XCVI

12 May

In our third and final episode on Macrobius' Saturnalia, we continue our look at Augustus. Discover more of his thoughts and delve into his daughter Julia's wit and intelligence. 

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Bellaria XCV

5 May

In our second episode on Macrobius' Saturnalia, we learn about Augustus' many musings. 

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Bellaria XCIV

28 April

Macrobius, who was praetorian prefect of Italy in AD 430 (we know little else of his life), was an enthusiast for education. Macrobius’ Saturnalia is dedicated to his son Eustachius, and claims to record discussions in private houses over four days, including the three of the Saturnalia (December 16-19 in all) in order to offer his children ‘an accumulation of things worth knowing … everything that the ancients developed to perfection’.

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Bellaria XCIII

21 April

In our final instalment of our 'Sayings of Philosophers' series, we look at Zeno.

Zeno, who came to Athens in 313 BC, invented Stoicism. In its developed form it rested on arguments about the physical nature of the universe (which was material and determinist); that virtue alone is both good and sufficient for happiness; and that human reason helps us to understand nature and its place in a rational world. Little of this magnificent scheme appears in these random thoughts.

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Bellaria XCII

14 April

Happy Easter! This week's episode takes a look at the Easter Story, focussing on the Gospel according to St Mark 15.

Next week we return to our final instalment of the ‘Sayings of Philosophers’ series.

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Bellaria XCI

7 April

In our third and final look at Diogenes, we examine his views on sexual attraction, effeminacy, and freedom of speech, among other things. In this week's episode we also enjoy a clever comparison made with a harp!

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Diogenes begging alms from a statue (Jean-Bernard Restout, 1732-1797)

Bellaria XC

31 March

In our second look at Diogenes, we discover some of his more peculiar behaviours and philosophies, such as one of his responses when insulted. 

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Bellaria LXXXIX

24 March

Diogenes was exiled for financial misconduct and came to Athens c. 362 BC. He associated himself with Antisthenes, taking his doctrine of the simple life to extremes and becoming the poster-boy for the philosophy known as cynicism. He attacked all forms of belief and convention—family, politics, marriage, city, reputation, wealth, power, literature, music, social, sexual and racial distinctions, and all forms of intellectualism (he believed in doing, not thinking)—in the cause of total self-sufficiency, declaring himself to be a kosmopolitês (‘citizen of the universe’). This week's Bellaria is the first of three on Diogenes.


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17 March

Antisthenes was a teacher in Athens, who wrote on many different topics, from ethics to language. He composed Socratic dialogues, together with a diatribe against Plato. Antisthenes was said to have been the founder of the Cynic tradition, emphasising the importance of the simple, self-sufficient life. While he acknowledged that most people believed in a multiplicity of gods, he himself thought there was only one god.

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Please note the correction: Antisthenes (Mid-5th to mid-4th century BC)

Bellaria LXXXVII

10 March

Aristotle, one of the most brilliant thinkers to have walked this planet, hardly needs an introduction. It is not surprising that his sayings are, for the most part, a cut above most of the other philosophers who have appeared in our series so far. We look at Aristotle's views on lying, education, beauty, mankind, and justice (to name only a few!) this week.

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Bellaria LXXXVI

3 March

Continuing to look at Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we consider the philosopher Aristippus this week.

Aristippus was a teacher of rhetoric and an associate of Socrates, but known for his luxurious lifestyle and advocacy of hedonism. Socrates directed an account of the Choice of Heracles (‘vice or virtue’) at him. He does not come across as particularly admirable.

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*Note: School of Athens (Raphael, 1632) correct date is (Raphael, 1509-1511)

Bellaria LXXXV

24 February

Continuing to follow Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we now consider the philosopher Bion.

Discover Bion's wily personality, atheism, and extravagance in this Bellaria. We look at his thoughts on topics ranging from anxiety and marriage to sexual favours and low birth. 

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Bellaria LXXXIV

17 February

Diogenes Laertius (c. AD 200-250) composed the lives of 82 philosophers from Thales, providing highly selective biographies. Not all the philosophers included are seen as rational thinkers, some are simply 'sages'. Diogenes’ work, however unreliable, was tremendously popular in Italy when it was first made available, because it presented a very contemporary picture of competing schools of philosophical thought.

This first philosopher we will explore is Socrates, the formidable arguer and orator. 

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Bellaria LXXXIII

10 February

This Bellaria continues to look at what Roman inscriptions can tell us about women's lives. This week the focus is on what inscriptions show us about their roles in religion and public life. 

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Bellaria LXXXII

3 February

In this Bellaria, we continue our look at women's lives from Roman inscriptions. This week the focus is on what inscriptions show us about their social relations, travel, and migration. 

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Bellaria LXXXI

27 January

Since the job of a Roman female citizen was to become a wife and raise a family, occupations gleaned from inscriptions are virtually exclusively the work of men, slaves and freedmen and freedwomen. Nor is the evidence very plentiful: about 200 female professionals are mentioned out of c. 2,500 occupational inscriptions from Roman Italy, even fewer from the provinces. Presumably plenty of women worked in lowly occupations that invited no record.

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Bellaria LXXX

20 January

This section concentrates on females slaves (mostly brought in from the Greek East), freedwomen and women of non-Roman background. Many in the last two categories signal on their epitaphs both their ethnic identity and their Romanitas. Their ability to set up expensive monuments suggests these women had gone some way to fulfilling their social aspirations.

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roman funeral inscription with image of woman

Bellaria LXXIX

13 January

By kind permission of Cambridge University Press, this series is based entirely on Emily A. Hemelrijk’s superb Women and Society in the Roman World: A Sourcebook of Inscription from the Roman West (Cambridge 2021). It covers inscriptions of all sorts, from graffiti to curse tablets and epitaphs, sourced from Italy and the western Latin-speaking provinces.

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Bellaria LXXVIII

9 December

In this special Christmas edition of Bellaria, we bring you the birth of Jesus from St Matthew 2.1-23 in the original Greek and four subsequent translations...

First line: St Matthew’s Greek (c. AD 85, our text derived from Erasmus’ edition 1516)

Second line: St Jerome’s Latin (the Vulgate, commissioned AD 382)

Third line: Wycliff’s translation (1382-1395)

Fourth line: Tyndale’s translation (begun 1522)

Fifth line: King James’ Authorized Version (1611)

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Bellaria LXXVII

25 November

Cicero said he was a sceptic (σκέπτομαι, ‘I observe, consider, enquire’) i.e. he did not think one could be certain about anything in this world, and he spent most of the time knocking down arguments. That said, when it came to politics, he adopted a broadly Stoic position. It will also be noted just how much philosophy Cicero wrote in the last four embattled years of his life—a man who truly found comfort in his books and ideas, but perhaps most of all in the lessons of the past.

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Bellaria LXXVI

18 November

On the Ides (15th) of March 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated as a dictator by a group of Senators led by Brutus and Cassius, with a view to restoring traditional republican government. Cicero played no part in the conspiracy, because he was not trusted to be able to keep it secret, but he was naturally in favour of it—and for the first time in his life, unambiguously took up the cause, as he saw it, of freedom against tyranny.

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Bellaria LXXV

11 November

In this episode we consider Cicero’s life outside politics, looking at the tensions in his family, his villas and love of collecting Greek items with which to furnish them, his beloved book collection, his secretary Tiro, his attitude towards the games, and ending with the death of his dearest daughter Tullia.

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Bellaria LXXIV

4 November

In 63 BC Cicero as consul dealt with the dangerous coup d’état of Catiline—Cicero’s finest hour, to which he never ceased to look back. But Cicero’s decision to execute five of the conspirators without trial brought him lasting unpopularity among those in favour of Catiline’s attempt.

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Bellaria LXXIII

28 October

Cicero was born a Roman citizen in 106 BC into a wealthy family in Arpinum (about 70 miles east of Rome), with connections in Rome (citizenship was bestowed on all Italians only after the Social War of 90-88 BC). In this famous and toe-curling letter, Cicero (now no longer the force he once was because of the rise of Pompey, Caesar and Crassus) asks the historian Lucius Lucceius to give him a special place in the history of recent events that Lucius was writing.

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Bellaria LXXII

21 October

Our final selection from The Greek Anthology includes a lament for the dead, the price of old age, gout, Heliodora, and a Greek spring...

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Bellaria LXXI

14 October

This week's selection from The Greek Anthology includes who saw Aphrodite naked, dodgy doctors, old boilers, Heraclitus the philosopher, and Alexis…

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Bellaria LXX

7 October

This week's selection from The Greek Anthology includes Lais’ mirror, honey-bees, raisins, and odi or amo?

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Bellaria LXIX

30 September

This week's Bellaria features a selection of poems from The Greek Anthology. The clunking translations are adapted from the Loeb Greek Anthology (W.R. Paton) to match the Greek as closely as possible. The translations by Peter Bradley are taken from his Epic to Epigram: An Anthology of Classical Verse (Bristol Classical Press 1991).

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Bellaria LXVIII

23 September

This anthology of 3,765 poems in Greek was drawn from a compilation made c. AD 900 by the Byzantine schoolmaster Constantine Cephalas, to which later additions were made (e.g. Christian and descriptive epigrams) and subtractions, not to mention editions, one by Planudes in 1301 (now misleadingly associated with Book 16). The full form in which we now have it was not officially published until 1803 (revised 1817). Doubtless Strato’s homoerotic poetry (Book 12) had something to do with it. 

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Bellaria LXVII

16 September

Sulpicia (b. c. 40 BC) is of great interest because hers is the only work of a female poet that survives from the classical period. Six of her poems, forty lines in all, survive as part of the work of Tibullus (3.13-180). In this one, flouting moral conventions like so many Roman male poets, she publicly rejoices in her lover Cerinthus (a Greek name, presumably not his real name).

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Bellaria 66

Bellaria LXVI

9 September

Here we meet Annius Florus, a friend (apparently) of Hadrian. He was very keen on poem about roses. There were two other Annii Flori: they may all be the same person…

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Bellaria LXV

2 September

Nothing is known about Calpurnius Siculus, except for his seven pastoral poems. Three of his eclogues deal with Nero, praising his rule and the blessings of peace and plenty that he brings to Rome; the other four follow typical pastoral themes—country life, falling in love, musical competitions.

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Bellaria LXIV

26 August

This week in Unfamiliar Latin Poets, we discover Livius Andronicus, Publilius the Syrian and Grattius. Known as  ‘The father of Latin Literature’, because he was said to be the first at Rome to compose Greek-style poems in Latin—‘father of Latin epic’ more accurately?— Livius wrote comedies and tragedies and translated the Odyssey into Latin saturnians (a metre far too complex to abridge usefully here). He keeps pretty close to the Greek, but Romanises where he feels like it.

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Bellaria LXIII

19 August

Ennius, who came from south Italy, developed the nationalistic epic genre with his 18-book Annales (note the technical title, used of priestly records). Unconsciously preparing the way for Virgil’s Aeneid, he consciously adopted the metre—the hexameter—and much of the style of Homer (who at the beginning of the epic, he claims, appeared to him in a dream) to tell in epic verse the story of Rome from its foundation to its assault on Greece in the early 2nd C BC, seen as taking revenge for the Greek victory in the Trojan war.

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Bellaria LXII

12 August

The great architect and civil and military engineer Vitruvius (d. 15 BC) was keen to impress on young architects that they needed to be masters of music, philosophy, the law, medicine, history, the theatre, etc. if they were to be successful. For this they depended on the work of the ancient masters. But it was vital to know that such work was genuine. This exemplary story makes the point and reminds us that Games covered far more than athletics.

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Bellaria LXI

5 August

The ancient sources are full of information about the ancient Olympics. In this and the next Bellaria, a selection will be offered. We start with the first European record of a chariot race (everything in Homer is the first written record of something European). As usual, there is dirty work at the cross-roads.

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Bellaria LX

22 July

In this essay, Plutarch contrasts atheism, which is seen as a foolish intellectual error, with deisidaimonia (‘fear of divinities’, cf. Desdemona), a far more serious mistake because of the emotional trauma and abject terror it brings with it. The word daimôn meant originally ‘one who allots’, so also ‘luck, destiny’ and one’s personal guardian angel. That seems harmless enough but Plutarch’s point is that fear of such an entity reduced one to jabbering helplessness. As Plutarch says at the start of this essay ‘He who fears god fears everything—earth, sea, air, heaven, darkness, light, sound, silence, dreams’. Even death brings no relief, for that too is full of monstrous terrors.

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Bellaria LIX

15 July

There is no other work quite like this in Plutarch—a collection of brief, unargued observations about marriage, usually involving a simile or comparison of some sort. It is addressed to a married couple of philosophical bent but, typically of this genre, the husband takes the role of teacher and guide. The point is that in the ancient world, elite males were educated, females not so much. It was therefore a perfectly reasonable assumption that a husband was duty-bound to educate his wife (cf. Ischomachus in Xenophon’s Oeconomicus). That did not mean wives did not have their own views on matters.

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Bellaria LVIII

8 July

The Loeb translates Politika Parangelmata as Precepts of Statecraft. Fair enough, but it is important to remember that the Greek world of Plutarch’s time was not the world of 5th C Athens but under the thumb of Rome, a situation to which Plutarch was perfectly reconciled. So there was nothing like the wide-ranging free-for-all of Athenian democratic assemblies. The wealthy were appointed to the council and the people’s assembly voted on what the council members proposed. These would concern local issues.

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Bellaria LVII

1 July

Plutarch was one of the very few ancients who argued that animals were rational, sentient, felt pain and therefore deserved more care and respect than men usually accorded them. In a dialogue On the Cleverness of Animals, he introduces six speakers who first establish that animals are rational because they e.g. plan for the future, have memory, care for their young, show gratitude and can be courageous and big-hearted. Then, using hundreds of examples, the six debate whether land or sea animals are superior.

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Bellaria LVI

24 June

Plutarch (c. AD 50-120), who as a Roman citizen was named Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, was born and lived in Chaironea (twenty miles east of Delphi). His works can be divided into the philosophical and historical-biographical. He served as a priest of Apollo at Delphi and was active in local affairs. Influential in government circles, he was keen to develop the idea of a productive relationship between Greece the educator and Rome the centre of power. A catalogue of his works lists 227 items, many lost. By the 4th C he had become a ‘classic’ and was hugely popular from the renaissance onwards, including in America.

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Bellaria LV

17 June

It is possible to make a number of generalisations from Valerius about the ethical values and beliefs that underpin Roman life. While gods exhibit a sense of justice and good faith, omens and prodigies are less reliable, though prayer is important, expressing a faith in divine benevolence. Acting in accordance with nature is often seen as beneficial, as if there is a sort of divinely-sanctioned world order of which humanity is a part.

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Bellaria LIV

10 June

Valerius is not known for his interest in strict historical accuracy. The idea that Pericles dreamed up the Peloponnesian war in order to divert any Athenian from enquiring into the expense incurred in building the Propylaea on the acropolis does not strike one as persuasive. Nevertheless, it serves Valerius’ ethical purposes.

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Parthian Horseman

Bellaria LIII

3 June

The job of the censors was to deal with citizens who did not prove themselves fully worthy of the title. Their decisions prove an important marker of the behaviour expected of the normal Roman, which for Valerius had to be driven by a proper sense of ‘duty and shame’, of which five examples are given.

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Bellaria LII

27 May

We continue our selection from Valerius Maximus with a look at extracts from his account of Roman customs, especially relating to the family, and then from items under the heading of ‘Innate Characteristics’. 

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Bellaria LI

20 May

Bellaria is back and our next series kicks off with the Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium 'Memorable Deeds and Sayings' of Valerius Maximus. In his Preface addressed to the Emperor Tiberius, Valerius explains what he is trying to do: "Many of the deeds and sayings from the city of Rome and from foreign nations are well worth recording. Other authors have dealt with these stories at great length, but this makes it impossible to learn about them in a short period of time, so I have decided to make a selection of them from the most famous writers."

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Bellaria L

1 April

Our 50th Bellaria takes a look at Lucian's version of the judgment of Paris, which all began with Zeus being informed that, if the sea-nymph Thetis married a god, their son would replace Zeus as king of the gods. Unenthusiastic about this outcome, Zeus arranged for her to marry the mortal Peleus (the resultant offspring being, of course, Achilles). But the goddess Eris (‘Strife’) had not been invited to the wedding. So she lobbed among the guests a golden apple, inscribed τῇ καλλίστῃ ‘to the most beautiful’. Aphrodite, Hera and Athena all laid claim to it and demanded that Zeus decide the winner.

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Bellaria XLIX

25 March

In this very contemporary dialogue, Lucian pictures the young man Klonarion (‘little twig’—make what you like of that) discussing with his hetaira Leaina (‘lioness’) rumours about what happened between her and the wealthy woman Megilla (from—note—Lesbos) and a female friend of Megilla’s called Demonassa from Corinth (famous for its immorality) who was ‘in the same business’. The relationship, as it emerges, also involves gift-giving, as it would with a male lover. In other words, it is a typically amusing Lucianic inversion of the normal teasing male-female hetaira relationship, leaving the hapless Klonarion begging for more, as usual, thought for a quite different reason…

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gathering of the gods

Bellaria XLVIII

18 March

In this dialogue between Zeus and Hera, Lucian imagines the married couple discussing the fate of Ixion, who married Dia, but did not want to pay for the bridal gifts which he had promised her father for her hand in marriage. So he slaughtered her father by luring him into a burning pit. For reasons best known to himself, Zeus forgave him and even invited him to join the gods’ feasts on Olympus.

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Bellaria XLVII

11 March

In these dialogues Lucian makes fun of Greek myth, turning gods into humans subject to ordinary, everyday human feelings—here on the subject of the sea-nymph Galateia’s love for the Cyclops Polyphemus and her sister Doris’s reaction to it.

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Stone carving on Trajan's column

Bellaria XLVI

4 March

In this craftily composed ‘memory’, Lucian describes how his family prescribed for him a career in the family business as a sculptor and how that fell apart at his first attempt. The night after his failure and subsequent thrashing, he tells us that he had a dream of two women, fighting for his attention: one was Sculpture, the other Education. They each make their pitch for him, and Education wins.

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Bust of Lucian

Bellaria XLV

25 February

The satirist Lucian was born c. AD 115 in Samosata, a town on the Euphrates in Syria. Whatever his native language was (Aramaic?), all schools in that part of the Roman Empire taught Greek. He trained in rhetoric, practised as an advocate, spent time in Athens, Italy, Thrace and Gaul (apparently), became interested in philosophy and died c. AD 180.

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Bellaria XLIV

18 February

In his introduction, Pliny tells us that he consulted 2,000 volumes in the compilation of his Natural History, an extraordinary fact. It certainly reads like it. But he does not just repeat them: he occasionally disagrees with them – even with Aristotle - and is not backward in being forward about his own views on many of the matters they discuss.

For this last Bellaria on Pliny, I have selected some pieces that struck me as being of interest out of the astonishing 20,000 items he claims to have covered, surely a serious underestimate. But we start with the animal nearest in intelligence to man…

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Breastfeeding mother

Bellaria XLIII

11 Ferbruary

Last week Pliny explained how our immobile world was the ‘pivot’ around which the universe circulated, upholding everthing by its rotational movement, and described Earth as divine, a providential ‘Mother Nature’, the equivalent of god.

In Book 7, he turns to the animal world, starting at the top of the ladder with homo, ‘the human’, mankind, and suggests that, while nature produced everything for man’s sake, Nature may not have been so kindly in one aspect of man’s existence.

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map of the world 15th century

Bellaria XLII

4 February

Regarding Earth as a divinity, Pliny both praises her abundant goodness and mildness to man and condemns man for the way he treats her. As for the world, he insists it is a globe, and attempts by logic and analogy to explain to the uneducated why we do not fall off it, and other tricky problems.

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Bellaria XLI

28 January

This week's Bellaria examines the world, nature and the gods according to Pliny the Elder. Pliny accepts the Stoic view that the world is ‘divine’ but he associates that divinity closely with a vaguely pantheistic Nature, which seems to be some sort of innate force that makes things what they are. However, he argues that it is madness to speculate on any matters beyond this world. If a man does not even know himself, what is he doing trying to fathom other worlds? That way, he implies, hubris lies, man over-reaching himself on a question he could never resolve.

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Pliny the elder

Bellaria XL

21 January

This next sequence of Bellaria will look into the sole surviving work from the many that Gaius Plinius Secundus—Pliny the Elder—composed while on service during his long career in the Roman army and navy: his mighty Naturalis Historia in thirty-six books, plus one more, a preface with Index and sources to all 36 books.

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Bellaria XXXIX

14 January

Many will know of Colin Sydenham through his close association with the Horatian Society over many years, and thereby have come to know of his enviable skill at verse composition.They were originally composed as a challenge to a group of about twenty classical friends. Every few months a batch of five or six would arrive, and the job would be to identify the originals.

This Bellaria offers a taste of the delights on offer, with a concession to readers—i.e. a heading to each of the Latin versions—which was not on offer to the original readers. Each version is followed by its original, but separated on-screen by means of a relevant picture, far enough from the Latin to prevent instant peeping.

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Bellaria XXXVIII

17 December

Whatever translation of the Bible we hear over Christmas, there is much to be said for examining how Jerome latinized Matthew’s Greek, and how that was Englished by two important sources of our ‘original’ (cough) King James’ version.

Here, then, is St Matthew’s Christmas story in the pen of:

  • The Greek of St Matthew, c. AD 70 (via Erasmus, 1516)

  • The Latin Vulgate of St Jerome, c. 400

  • The Wessex Gospels, Old English West Anglo-Saxon dialect of Northumbria, c. 990

  • John Wycliffe, 1384

  • Willam Tyndale, 1526

  • King James, 1611

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Bellaria XXXVII

10 December

In the fifth and final part of the 'Medieval Latin' series, this week's Bellaria features a sequence of texts drawn from Keith Sidwell’s Reading Medieval Latin (Cambridge, 1995), which explore the dreams of Charlemagne - emperor of the (not) Holy (not) Roman (not) Empire - and the rules of courtly love according to Andreas Capellanus (fl. 1180) in de amore.

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Bellaria XXXVI

3 December

In the fourth part of the 'Medieval Latin' series, this week's Bellaria features a sequence of texts drawn from Keith Sidwell’s Reading Medieval Latin (Cambridge, 1995), which explore the lives and poetic works of early Christian figures, including St Ambrose, Bishop Ninian, and Alcuin of York, before taking a look at the Carmina Burana, a medieval manuscript of 228 poems dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

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thomas becket being murdered

Bellaria XXXV

26 November

In the third part of the 'Medieval Latin' series, this week's Bellaria features a sequence of texts drawn from Keith Sidwell’s Reading Medieval Latin (Cambridge, 1995), which explore the life and death of Thomas Becket, and the battle between church and state that his martyrdom represented. 

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Bellaria XXXIV

19 November

In the second part of the 'Medieval Latin' series, this week's Bellaria features a sequence of texts drawn from Keith Sidwell’s Reading Medieval Latin (Cambridge, 1995), which explore the year 1066 and the decisive Battle of Hastings, accompanied by scenes from the Bayeux tapestry.

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Medieval drawing of Bede

Bellaria XXXIII

12 November

The next few Bellaria will feature a sequence of texts drawn from Keith Sidwell’s Reading Medieval Latin (Cambridge, 1995). It is a teaching text, with 86 passages, prose and verse, from St Benedict (b. 480) to Nigel Whiteacre (b. 1130), a monk active at the time of Henry II and Richard Lionheart.

The texts are supported by full historical and cultural introductions and running vocabulary and grammatical help. It ends with a brief grammar (summarising the main differences from classical Latin), a note on orthography, and total vocabulary for the texts. Professor Sidwell has kindly translated, as literally as possible, the passages selected for this series of Bellaria.

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Roman mosaic of fish

Bellaria XXXII

5 November

In the fifth and final part of the 'Derivations' series, this Bellaria abandons the thematic approach and ranges randomly over words whose roots lie in Latin and Greek, and were taken into English.

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statue of the goddess hygieia

Bellaria XXXI

29 October

In the fourth part of the 'Derivations' series, this week's Bellaria ranges far and wide over the unexpected or not obvious derivations of those words taken into English whose roots lie in Latin and Greek.

As far as the West is concerned, Hippocrates (5th C BC, from Cos) invented the language of medicine - from prognosis to diagnosis, from phlegm to haemorrhoids. He was enormously famous in the ancient world and is regarded as the father of ‘rational’ medicine. All that means is that he attempted as best he could to use evidence and experience to analyse and explain illnesses rather than to regard them as incomprehensible divine visitations.

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Roman marble relief of augers at work

Bellaria XXX

22 October

In the third part of the 'Derivations' series, this week's Bellaria ranges far and wide over the unexpected or not obvious derivations of those words taken into English whose roots lie in Latin and Greek.

One of the reasons for the success of Christianity was that Christians worked within the political, social and cultural framework of paganism, slowly reconstructing it as Christian. For example, D.O.M. is often seen on Roman inscriptions: Deo Optimo Maximo ‘[dedicated to] God Greatest Best’, i.e. Jupiter, a very ancient form of address. Christians happily took it over, referring to the Christian deity.

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Chaucer accompanied by Latin text from the Middle Ages

Bellaria XXIX

15 October

In the second part of the 'Derivations' series, this week's Bellaria ranges far and wide over the unexpected or not obvious derivations of those words taken into English whose roots lie in Latin and Greek.

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Bellaria 28

Bellaria XXVIII

8 October

In the first part of the 'Derivations' series, this week's Bellaria ranges far and wide over the unexpected or not obvious derivations of those words taken into English whose roots lie in Latin and Greek.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the broader picture of how English, a Germanic language, came to be so richly infiltrated with Latin and Greek...

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Bellaria 27

Bellaria XXVII

1 October

There was a time when the ability to compose in Greek and Latin verse was seen as the ne plus ultra of the classical scholar.

This one-off Bellaria showcases the extensive work of two modern masters of the art, Colin Leach (Emeritus Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford) and Armand D’Angour (Jesus College, Oxford), and individual contributions from David Butterfield (Queen’s College, Cambridge) and Ronald Knox.

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Bellaria 26

Bellaria XXVI

24 September

The Greek pupil has now learned enough Latin from the Colloquia and the grammar to turn to the real thing. But the wind needs tempering to the young, if not shorn, lamb...

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Bellaria 25

Bellaria XXV

17 September

It was Dositheus himself, not the pseudo incarnation, who was the first person to ensure his Latin grammar was comprehensible to his Greek pupils and teachers alike by translating it into Greek.

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Roman Dinner Party

Bellaria XXIV

10 September

This sequence of Bellaria is drawn from Professor Eleanor Dickey’s definitive scholarly editions (CUP, 2012 and 2015), and her spin-offs from them, Learning Latin the Ancient Way (CUP, 2016), Stories of Daily Life from the Ancient World (CUP, 2017) and an elementary textbook Learn Latin from the Romans (CUP, 2018).

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Bellaria 23

Bellaria XXIII

3 August

This sequence of Bellaria is drawn from Professor Eleanor Dickey’s definitive scholarly editions (CUP, 2012 and 2015), and her spin-offs from them, Learning Latin the Ancient Way (CUP, 2016), Stories of Daily Life from the Ancient World (CUP, 2017) and an elementary textbook Learn Latin from the Romans (CUP, 2018).

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Bellaria 22

Bellaria XXII

27 August

The extraordinary ‘Conversations to be found in the Translations of Pseudo-Dositheus’ are manuals to help Greeks learn Latin, and Romans Greek. Rather like a Loeb text or a Teach Yourself Swahili, they do this by setting jolly conversational scenes from everyday life—in simple language side by side on the page, together with pronunciation tips, vocabulary lists, grammar exercises and so on.

Professor Eleanor Dickey (Reading University) has been almost single-handedly responsible for bringing these texts into the light of day for the 21st century. For this Bellaria sequence Professor Dickey has most generously provided the texts, with her translations, from her scholarly editions, and allowed me to make full use of her commentaries and material from her books.

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Bellaria 21

Bellaria XXI

20 August

This sequence of Bellaria has been broadly thematic. That is not quite fair to Martial the poet, each of whose books reveals an impressively unpredictable diversity of subject matter. In that sense, it has been likened to the experience of reading a newspaper: you never know what is going to hit you next.

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Bellaria 16

Bellaria XX

13 August

It would be unfair to Martial to give the impression that his epigrams are all cynicism, sarcasm and outright bile. It is clear he put considerable effort into ensuring that each of his books demonstrated a huge variety of subjects, styles and moods.

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Bellaria 19

Bellaria XIX

6 August

Martial mentions nearly fifty jobs of one sort or another – from actors, advocates, architects and astrologers through executioners and gladiators to teachers, snake-keepers and undertakers…

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Bellaria 18

Bellaria XVIII

30 July

Martial is famous for his filthy poems. Some have a genial behind-the-bike-sheds feel to them

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Bellaria 17

Bellaria XVII

23 July

Apologies in advance for the doggerel (per)versions. Prose translations of Martial don’t do it for me.

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Bellaria 16

Bellaria XVI

16 July

We shall now wake from the dreams of Artemidorus and turn our attention to the rapier wit of Rome’s most scabrous poet – none other than Martial.

To judge from his poetry (always a dodgy business with a poet): Marcus Valerius Martialis was a Spaniard with a good Roman name, like his parents Fronto and Flacilla (5.34). So presumably the family had at some stage in the past held office in the municipium where they lived (Augusta Bibilis, on a hill near modern Catalayud, 4.55) and as a result been given Roman citizenship.

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Bellaria 15

Bellaria XV

9 July

It is remarkable that the world of the Roman Empire rarely features in Artemidorus. Only two emperors – Hadrian and Antoninus Pius – are mentioned, and where emperors feature at all it is mostly as symbols and images.

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Bellaria 14

Bellaria XIV

02 July

Life in the ancient world was not sacrosanct, with little sympathy for the ill, crippled or mentally deficient. In this respect, it was a very unforgiving world.

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Bellaria 13

Bellaria XIII

25 June

For Artemidorus there was much more to a dream than its actual subject…

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Bellaria 12

Bellaria XII

18 June

Here Artemidorus describes the subjects of the dreams discussed in the first two of his (eventually) five books.

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Bellaria 11

Bellaria XI

11 June

Artimedorus from Daldis, near Ephesus, writing c. AD 200 was a professional interpreter of dreams. He composed his Interpretation of Dreams (henceforth ID, Oneirokritika in Greek) in five books, showing the beginner how it should be done.

This run of Bellaria will introduce supporters of Classics for All to this enthusiastic hero of the genre. By kind permission of Martin Hammond, we shall be using his fine new translation Artemidorus: ID (Oxford World’s Classics, 2020), with notes by Peter Thonemann (Wadham College, Oxford), whose superb An Ancient Dream Manual (Oxford 2020) gives a full and fascinating account of Artemidorus’ mighty opus.

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Bellaria 10

Bellaria X

4 June

This is the last of the extracts from Tom Holland’s first drafts of his forthcoming translation for Penguin. Classics for All is extremely grateful to Tom for allowing our supporters to peep into this work in progress and much looks forward to the finished article (summer 2021).

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Bellaria 9

Bellaria IX

28 May

Suetonius makes it clear that one important criterion of the ‘good emperor’ was the care he lavished on the city and people Rome, and another the moderation he exemplified in his own personal life. Augustus came out top in both…

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Bellaria 8

Belaria VIII

21 May

In this passage Suetonius, who had full access to the imperial library and its archives, quotes directly from three of Augustus’s letters on the matter of Claudius to his wife Livia. While Augustus is absolutely frank about the practical problem that Claudius (aged 21 at the time) presents for the imperial family, there is a touching humanity about his feelings for his great nephew.

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Bellaria 7

Bellaria VII

14 May

Suetonius, who wrote widely on literary and grammatical topics, here summaries his findings from examining Augustus’ formal and informal literary style, handwriting and spelling.

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Bellaria 6

Bellaria VI

7 May

Horace declared that books combining utile dulci won everyone’s vote (punctum). Since pleasure is the most useful thing in the world, that is no surprise, but Horace was clearly distinguishing the two. So in this case, ‘useful to whom?’ This run of Bellaria answers as follows: the historian Tom Holland.

Tom is currently translating Suetonius’ de vita Caesarum for Penguin Classics. Like Suetonius, he is thoroughly in favour of Classics for All, and would be delighted if CfA were to run the rule over his first draft (he is currently up to Vespasian). So the next five Bellaria will feature scenes from Suetonius in Tom’s translation. One of his stated aims is to keep as close as possible to Suetonius’ word-order.

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Bellaria 5

Bellaria V

30 April

Ausonius’ wife was Sabina. They had three children. Iuvenis and puella (l. 4) are the language of love-poetry. Ausonius envisages them growing old together, although his hopes of a long marriage were not fulfilled.

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Bellaria 4

Bellaria IV

23 April

Here is a magnificent single stanza poem from Petronius’ Satyricon, which is not what it seems.

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Bellaria 3

Bellaria III

16 April

Here Propertius (c. 50-15 BC), in a sort of post-coital haze, moves from monologue to dialogue and back again, shifting between past and present, hope and desire, as he recalls and reflects on a night of love-making.

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Bellaria 2

Bellaria II

9 April

Auberon Waugh, then editor of Literary Review, invented the now famous annual ‘Bad Sex’ Award ‘to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel’.

Given that C-19 means we are all apparently doomed, it is the socially responsible thing to encourage the population’s philoprogenitive urges. Classics for All’s series of Bellaria will therefore start with five scenes which would (probably) have won an ancient ‘Good Sex’ award…

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Zeus & Hera

Bellaria I

2 April

Auberon Waugh, then editor of Literary Review, invented the now famous annual ‘Bad Sex’ Award ‘to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel’.

Given that C-19 means we are all apparently doomed, it is the socially responsible thing to encourage the population’s philoprogenitive urges. Classics for All’s series of Bellaria will therefore start with five scenes which would (probably) have won an ancient ‘Good Sex’ award…

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